More inclusive spaces

Philosopher Asia Ferrin explains why feminists must defer to trans women no matter what:

There has been some online discussion recently about how, or if, people can have open conversations about policies that aim to create more inclusive spaces for trans people, trans women in particular. I will not recount the conversation here, but readers might want to see these posts, first from Kathleen Stock, then a reply from Talia Mae Bettcher, and a reply to the reply from Stock. Similar themes also come up in a recent post here on hostility in such discussions.

That’s one way to put it, but it’s quite a loaded way. “Inclusive” has become a highly deceptive or tendentious word in some contexts, and this is one of them. Nobody wants “inclusive spaces” in all situations and contexts, and the reasons for that are not all “exclusionary” or racist or racist-like. To put it another way,  we are allowed to want privacy in some situations, and it can be a matter of life and death. Remember those girls in India who were raped and murdered because they had to go outside to crap?

Mostly women and men work together in shared spaces, but we know that that doesn’t always work out well for the women. That doesn’t mean the sexes should be segregated at work, but it does mean there’s an issue. One compromise people arrived at historically was that women could at least segregate themselves when they had to lift their skirts or take their trousers down to deal with physical imperatives. That means women do not necessarily want to “create more inclusive spaces for trans people” if that includes the places where they have to lift their skirts or take their trousers down, or take them off altogether to change into athletic gear. Women don’t necessarily want to be more inclusive about undressing, and they shouldn’t have to. They should not have to. Reasons for not wanting to include bruises, stab wounds, rape, and death. It’s not some stupid little whim and it’s not right-wing and it’s not cruel – it’s a core part of women’s ability to leave the house at all.

So, I’m put off by Asia Ferrin in the first paragraph, and I don’t warm to her as I read on.

I write primarily for the person who reads Stock’s writings and thinks “hmmm, good question: why do conversations about trans issues have to be so hostile or difficult? Some of Stock’s worries seem legitimate and worthy of further consideration.” I aim to explain, and in part defend, resistance and hostility to the conversation, at least as Stock presents it. In doing so, I will also problematize some of her analysis.

Yeah, we can’t have people thinking Stock’s questions are reasonable, and we should have lots of hostility toward her arguments and her.

Specifically, for our purposes, why might trans people and trans allies (myself included) express hostility—or exasperation, frustration, hurt, anger, betrayal, resistance, etc.—when someone proposes an investigation into whether trans women should have access to spaces typically designated as women only? There is much that could be said here, and again, much that has been said here, so I will aim to be relatively brief. One reason for such resistances is that it seems that a negative answer, that is, the claim that “no, trans women should not have access to spaces typically designated for women only” relies on one of the following premises:

Assumption A) Trans women aren’t women.

Assumption A) Trans women aren’t women. Stock defends this view, and the Gender Critical position generally, here. There is good reason to think this assumption is false, however, and thus a nonstarter. See hereherehere, and here. But even if it’s true, the assumption that trans women aren’t women doesn’t sufficiently ground the moral claim that Stock is after. One can’t derive the moral claim that trans women should be excluded from resources and spaces like homeless shelters, rape crises centers, changing rooms, hostels, public transport sleeping carriages, etc. from the descriptive claim that “Trans women aren’t women.”

But again, that’s a tendentious way of putting it. Men are already “excluded” from resources and spaces like some homeless shelters, rape crises centers, changing rooms, hostels, public transport sleeping carriages, and the like, because women need and want privacy from men in those situations. In a perfect world they wouldn’t need that because men would never take advantage of vulnerable women, but this is not that world.

Then she moves on to say the discussion is “hurtful and harmful.”

I can imagine that if someone wanted to have a discussion, or explore a thesis, that involved invoking this assumption about me, I would experience a range of emotions—e.g. fear, hurt, disappointment, anger, resentment, hopelessness, and/or betrayal. I would feel some or all of these things at once if someone implied that I was dangerous. Furthermore, when this assumption gets airtime and uptake from less well-intentioned individuals or groups, trans women’s lives can be compromised in physical, social, ontological, and political ways. In other words, trans women and trans allies would be expected to be upset when certain positions about gendered spaces depend upon an assumption about them as threatening.

Furthermore, this upset is normatively justified. Imagine a scholar wanted to discuss the legal status of Black people, making claims that invoked and implied the following: “Black people are dangerous to white people.” It would be unsurprising for a conversation involving these assumptions to make many Black people feel a range of emotions and thus inclined to shut down conversations in which these assumptions are made. Moreover, beyond emotional affront, the world is worse for Black people, due to white supremacy, when these ideas get airtime as worthy of consideration.

And, you see, women are to trans women as white people are to black people.


No. No we are not. That’s one of the ways this movement goes all the way off the rails, and down the embankment and into our living rooms. Women as a class are not in the dominant or privileged position in this world, and that does not change just because you add the word “cis.” It’s embarrassing to see women themselves buying into that bullshit idea, and even doing their best to enforce it on other women.

Stock posted a reply today.

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